A member of the Arizona Farm Bureau and enthusiastic advocate for Arizona agriculture, Kris Johnson’s agribusiness story is quite unique and certainly important.

Having known her for many years now, I have always admired Johnson’s tenacity, gentle and independent spirit, and her unassuming humility. She’s also someone that can always be counted on. I think it’s part of the family legacy, the Geldmachers, that she comes from.

Her role as what I’ll call a well tester, is critical, as she explains, “I feel it is very important for my customers to know that I am onsite measuring the wells and providing them with the most accurate data possible. Collection of data related to water is of utmost importance…from the day-to-day operation of the most efficient wells, and also having accurate historical water records for use when selling your property.”

Finally, I’ll always celebrate Johnson’s work and especially the arsenal of tools in her toolbox, as one of them, a weir for helping with measuring the flow of water, happens to be a device dad, Pat Murphree, developed and patented decades ago. To hear her explain its use and how it’s a mainstay in all the tools she uses just makes my heart happy.



An agribusiness profile of Kris Johnson, from Maricopa County.

An ongoing series of our farm, ranch, and agribusiness families.



Performing all her measurement and metrics on a valley  pump. 


Tell us the history, heritage, and status of Well Energy Testing, your company. While working in Maricopa County as the Team Leader of the Water Conservation Management Program (WCMP), a mobile irrigation lab, sponsored by the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) and two Arizona Natural Resource Conservation Districts, I saw an opportunity to enhance the scope of irrigation services we provided to the growers in the area. I requested that all team members receive training on how to evaluate the efficiency of deep wells. Our program could then offer well testing assistance to the cooperators in our area. This service would primarily focus on measuring the output (volume) of water from the well, the energy (kwhr) required to produce that volume, and the pumping water level (depth to water while pump is running). Having these three main pieces of information and a few other variables (Motor HP, static water level, and operating pressure) the Overall Pumping Plant Efficiency could be calculated.


I worked for the WCMP for six years, then took a position as a cotton gin manager. While working at the gin, I saw an opportunity to capitalize on my well testing training and started working as an independent well tester for one local irrigation district on the weekends. I quickly saw that there was a need for a reliable and independent provider of this type of information, not only for irrigation districts but for farmers also. In 1998, I officially registered Well Energy Testing with the Corporation Commission. Originally, I worked with irrigation and electrical districts in the “west valley,” gradually I have increased my customer base to include farmers and dairies in Maricopa, LaPaz, Yuma, Pinal, Pima, and Santa Cruz counties. My customer base has recently grown to include cemeteries, small ranches and a few small utility providers.


One of the main reasons the data I collect is important is because the owner of the water right (irrigation district, farmer, dairyman), if located within an Active Management Area, needs to file an annual water use report for groundwater pumped and is required to pay a tax on every acre-foot of water withdrawn. The information I gather is directly used on the annual water withdrawal reports. A selling point for my business is that I am not an employee of the State, nor am I with a well drilling/repair company. I am solely an independent contractor providing the well owner with a one-time analysis of his or her well.

Using a weir to determine water flow and measurements. 


When you reflect on your childhood, what are some things that stick out most in relation to agriculture and/or your agricultural roots?  Our family had a small cattle operation on the west end of Aravaipa Canyon. My dad had an off farm “day job” as a dentist in a small copper mining town, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom. On weekends, my dad did ranch chores and we all enjoyed the rural lifestyle. My two older siblings and I grew up doing chores: irrigating pastures, chopping weeds, building fence, installing PVC pipelines, planting pecan trees, caring for the trees, repairing equipment, raising home grown steers for 4H and FFA, riding, roping, and branding, you know, ranch chores. We earned our blisters, bruises, cholla cactus spines, torn pants, and sunburns. We grew up learning that when there was work to be done, it got done; we learned how to build relationships with neighbors; how to entertain yourself (we lived 30 miles from school); we were expected to help and work each day, given responsibilities, and taught to respect and care for our natural resources.


Through the years, what’s been most important to you about your business and why? The most important thing to me is to provide exceptional service to my customers. That includes being dependable, prompt, visible, accurate and reliable. I feel it is very important for my customers to know that I am onsite measuring the wells and providing them with the most accurate data possible. Collection of data related to water is of utmost importance…from the day-to-day operation of the most efficient wells, and also having accurate historical water records for use when selling your property.


Talk about your NRCD board member role and what do you think have been the biggest advances in the last 20 years with the conservation districts? I became familiar with Conservation Districts while working for NRCS in Nevada after graduating from college. I started my irrigation-related career as a Conservation District employee working for the WCMP. Conservation Districts play an important role in locally-led natural resource conservation. Over the last 20 years, Conservation Districts have built a strong network of partners from state, federal, and local government agencies as well as local and national NGOs. Through grant funding, Conservation Districts support sustainable agriculture in Arizona by supporting producers through the implementation of conservation practices that use technology and science to improve production and conserve our natural resources.


What do you love the most about the agriculture industry? I love the fact that the people I work with, and for, produce my food and fiber. They are the backbone of this country, they are honest, hardworking people who want to be good stewards of the land.


What are some ways you stay active in your community? I was an active member of 4-H in Pinal County, and our daughter was also actively involved in Maricopa County 4-H and FFA. I had the most amazing 4-H leaders in Dudleyville, and when I was given an opportunity to assist at our local club as the Livestock & Dairy Judging and Skill-a-Thon Coach, I was glad to do so. Over 100 kids from our 4-H club came through our house at some point during my 6 years as coach. To see the transformation of these ‘kids’ into ‘young adults’ is something I am very proud of. Many were local, state and national winners. I was honored to take a Livestock Judging team (from our club) to the National 4-H Livestock Judging contest in Louisville, Kentucky. I also have helped co-coach several FFA CDE teams and am a member of Buckeye FFA Alumni.

I am a member of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, where I have been a board member (of varying positions) at the state level for over 20 years.

Several years ago, I assisted with planning the Maricopa County Farm Bureau annual meeting and helped serve desserts at the Legislative Fest at the Capitol.

I’m also a current member of the University of Arizona CALES Alumni Board of Directors.


What is one fact or achievement that few people know about you? Option 1: Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t carry a tune, but I used to play the cello (in grade school), and I really liked it.

Option 2: I was honored to receive a CALCOT-Sietz Foundation scholarship as a senior in high school. My mom took me to Phoenix airport to catch a ride on the CALCOT plane to the scholarship award ceremony in Bakersfield. Of note, CALCOT is a producer-owned marketing cooperative for cotton. Little did I know that a few 6 years later, several of the men on that plane would be my customers. Our agriculture community is small, but so large. The scholarship committee saw something in me years ago, and I am honored still today to have a business that supports the same people who supported me.


In your opinion, how will the next generation of agriculturalists need to operate to be successful, especially in the agri-business space? I have been very fortunate to operate a business where there is little, to no, competition. Finding a ‘niche’ like this has worked well for me. I would encourage the next generation to find the ‘niche’ that works for them. Additionally, this generation and the next will need to continue to adapt to all the enhancements and improvements in electronic technology. Whether it be related to farm equipment, software, or mechanical improvements, computers, apps and digital technology will become an increasing part of our everyday lives.


What is the best life advice that you have received? The best life advice I would give is to build honest and realistic relationships with your customer base. I am self-employed, because I was able to build those types of relationships with growers and irrigation districts when I was with the WCMP twenty-five years ago. Many of those original customers are still my customers today.  

Please complete this sentence: “I am still running my agribusiness…” I am still running my agribusiness because I enjoy what I do, and there is still a need for onsite well flow measurement. I’m fortunate to be able to set my own schedule, and work with a community of people who are stewards of the land.

Editor's Note: Arizona Farm Bureau attempts to profile our farm, ranch, and agribusiness families once a month. If you know a family we should profile, let us know at outreach@azfb.org